As you surely know, President Obama’s tenure has brought enormous advances for the LGBT movement in the United States. But many of these landmark wins for civil equality remain at peril should a Republican win the White House in November. This column will serve as a running update on both the US presidential race and the recent and growing avalanche of anti-gay bills in our state legislatures, many of which come in reaction to the landmark 2015 Supreme Court ruling which legalized same-sex marriage nationwide.
This first Thoughts From Joe column will serve as a brief primer on the leaders in the Republican presidential field and their threats to undo same-sex marriage and other recent LGBT rights advances. While several notoriously anti-LGBT candidates have dropped out of the race in recent days and more will surely do so in the next week or so, at least four Republicans, for now, appear to be in the race for the long haul. Below I’ve rated each of these contenders on 1-5 “threat level” scale (1 = most threatening, 5 = least threatening) based on their vows to upend civil rights for LGBT Americans.
The least overtly anti-LGBT of the Republican field, in recent weeks Trump has increasingly cozied up to America’s evangelicals. In the last week he vaguely threatened to enable the reversal of same-sex marriage through right wing appointments to the Supreme Court, which is likely to have several vacancies during the next presidential term. But just a few days later, Trump also vaguely promised “forward motion” on LGBT issues while speaking to a lesbian reporter. Trump is infamously backed by a swath of America’s racist lunatic fringe, including white supremacists and neo-Nazi groups. While fears of an America wracked by Trump’s almost open fascist tendencies are well-grounded, he appears, for now at least, to present (relatively speaking) the least danger to LGBT rights. But given Trump’s famously mercurial temperament, there are surely no guarantees.
THREAT LEVEL RATING: 4
A first term US Senator, Cruz has almost universal support from evangelicals and the leaders of America’s most viciously anti-LGBT hate groups, Cruz, aided by his raving pastor father, regularly denounces LGBT people in most vicious language you’ll likely hear from a presidential contender. Cruz has characterized the Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage ruling as coming from anti-Christian “black-robed terrorists” and he has promised that his Supreme Court appointments will be “hard core conservatives” who fear God and therefore hate homosexuals. Last October, Cruz declared his willingness to reinstate a ban on military service by openly LGBT citizens and he has vowed to repeal many of the Obama administration’s many actions in support of LGBT rights.
THREAT LEVEL RATING 1.
Also a first term US Senator, Rubio holds many of the same positions as Ted Cruz, although he tends to express them in comparatively measured language, and he has virtually no support from the country’s leading anti-LGBT hate groups. Rubio is seen by many as an “establishment” candidate who has the support of national Republican Party leaders, most of whom openly loathe Ted Cruz. Rubio has vowed to appoint anti-LGBT Supreme Court justices, he opposes virtually all LGBT anti-discrimination laws, he calls gay adoption a “dangerous social experiment,” and he’s even raised money for a supporter of so-called “conversion therapy.” While Rubio comes nowhere near Ted Cruz’s levels of ugliness when speaking about LGBT rights, a Rubio presidency would surely prove disastrous to our movement.
THREAT LEVEL RATING 2.
A former two-term Florida governor, Bush’s legacy as the son of one US president and the brother of another has surprisingly led to meager support among the Republican establishment and great derision from the far right. Fluent in Spanish and married to a Mexican immigrant, Bush is therefore regarded with great suspicion by America’s millions of xenophobes and open racists. On LGBT issues, Bush is a relative moderate, although that’s definitely faint praise in light of the rest of the Republican field. Bush supported Florida’s now moot ban on same-sex marriage, but has said little regarding his potential Supreme Court appointments. He has, however, expressed support for placing a ban on same-sex marriage into the US Constitution, something that is easy to say as it has virtually zero chance of ever happening. Regarding LGBT anti-discrimination measures, Bush’s positions are similarly muddled and his answers often depend on his audience. In general, Bush tends to speak the anti-LGBT party line, but in most cases he accepts pro-LGBT decisions as settled law.
THREAT LEVEL RATING 3.
The enormity of the power which rests in making Supreme Court appointments cannot be understated when it comes to civil rights for LGBT Americans. Even the most moderate Republican candidate could easily undo decades of advances were he to have the opportunity and the will to appoint ardent opponents of LGBT equality.
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